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Diary of a Fantasy Madman
Make That Move Right Now PDF Print E-mail
Diary of a Fantasy Madman
Written by Zach Steinhorn   
Sunday, 14 December 2014 00:00
The week of the Winter Meetings tends to be the time when the Hot Stove kicks into high gear, and after opening at a snail’s pace, that’s exactly what happened this year. The Red Sox continued their roster overhaul while the Astros uncharacteristically splurged on a pair of free agents. Billy Beane did what Billy Beane typically does while the Yankees uncharacteristically did nothing. When it comes to evaluating off-season signings and trades from a fantasy standpoint, it’s easy to either become overly pessimistic or overly giddy about a certain player’s prospects, so I try not to fall into this trap, at least until I do some more research followed by some more thinking and then some more thinking. But more often than not, it’s the initial reaction that ultimately wins out, and more often than not, draft day decisions are heavily influenced by these initial reactions. On that note, here are my initial reactions regarding some of the players who made news this past week.

3 UP

Mat Latos

Yeah, there’s some risk with Latos, mostly health related, as elbow, calf and knee injuries limited him to just 16 starts last season. Then there’s the strikeout rate issue, as his K/9 dropped from 8.0 in 2013 to 6.5 in 2014. But his other ratios remained strong, and considering that he was coming off four straight seasons with at least 185 punchouts, I’m willing to give him a mulligan. I cannot help but think that the health woes contributed to the strikeout dip. Latos is still only 27, and moving from Great American Ball Park to Marlins Park should help him. I was able to grab Latos in the 17th round (#242 overall) in a 15-team mixed mock draft last month. Granted, this was before the trade to Miami, but 17th round? Chances are he will cost significantly more than that come March, but the value will still be there.

Brandon Moss

I’ve never been a huge fan of Moss since he’s a liability in batting average, but with power down throughout baseball, there’s a lot to like about a guy who has swatted a combined 55 homers to go along with 168 RBI over the past two seasons while playing half his games in a pitcher-friendly park. Now he gets to move into a more neutral hitting environment in Cleveland. Keep in mind that Moss posted an OPS of .831 on the road last year compared to a .703 mark at home. Although I won’t necessarily be targeting him in 2015, I won’t be afraid to draft him either.

Luke Gregerson

Since Gregerson made his big league debut in 2009, few relievers have been as consistently dominant. Now it sounds like he’s the leading candidate to close for his new club, and if he heads into the season as the Astros’ clear-cut ninth inning man, I wouldn’t have any problem drafting him as my No. 2 stopper in a mixed league. I don’t see the role change having any effect whatsoever on his performance level.

3 DOWN

Yoenis Cespedes

I was a lot more bullish on Cespedes when he was a member of the Red Sox. Now that he’s a Tiger, I’m lukewarm on him. One might be surprised to learn that 13 of his 22 homers last year came at home in Oakland, so maybe my concerns about him playing in spacious Comerica Park will prove to be unwarranted. But by investing in Cespedes, you’re paying for the home runs, as he won’t be of much use in the batting average department and he doesn’t run anymore. And how many home runs is he going to hit? Maybe 25? Is he really that much better than the aforementioned Brandon Moss? If Cespedes falls into my lap on draft day, I guess I’d take him. But odds are the price will be too high for my liking.

Wade Miley

Speaking of liking, I’ve always liked Miley as a pitcher who you could draft to round out your fantasy staff who fits the high floor/low ceiling description. Last season was disappointing though, outside of the career-high 183 strikeouts. I was a Miley owner in Tout Wars, and despite hanging onto him from start to finish, I ended up relegating him to matchup duty where I’d only start him for his road outings (5.61 home ERA vs. 3.17 road ERA). Chase Field is a tough place to pitch, but is Fenway Park any easier? No, the AL East lineups aren’t as scary as they used to be, but it’s still the American League with the DH and a division with a number of hitter-friendly ballparks. Wade, it was nice knowing you.

Rick Porcello

Porcello will be only 26 on Opening Day, and he’s coming off a career-best season, so maybe this will all work out. But after significantly improving his strikeout rate in 2013, his K/9 sunk back down to its usual sub-6.00 level last year. On the other hand, Porcello does have excellent control, which at least partially makes up for the underwhelming strikeout rate. I guess it all depends on his draft day cost, but the bottom line is that moving from Detroit to Boston cannot be viewed as a good thing, and quite a few owners will be banking on him taking another step forward after last season’s breakthrough campaign. I won’t be one of them.

Last Updated on Sunday, 14 December 2014 00:51
 
A Closer Look PDF Print E-mail
Diary of a Fantasy Madman
Written by Zach Steinhorn   
Sunday, 07 December 2014 00:00
Somewhere in my previous 152 Mastersball articles, I’m pretty sure I covered the topic of closers in fantasy baseball. More specifically how I think the “don’t pay for saves” strategy is nonsense. By drafting at least one top-tier closer, you’re not just paying for saves. You’re paying for elite ratios and the peace of mind in knowing that you will not need to frantically scour the waiver wire during the season to address that roster spot should one of your cheaper stoppers lose their ninth inning gig due to poor performance. You will not need to drain your FAAB budget out of desperation to acquire the hot closer pickup of the week who may or may not hold onto the job beyond that week. Now look, Tout Wars league mate Derek Van Riper won this year’s Mixed Auction league despite purchasing zero closers at the auction and finishing the season with a grand total of two saves. But that’s a very tough thing to do, and personally, I just don’t have the stomach for it.

My formula generally includes one closer from the elite group, one mid-tier guy with a high level of job security and one dominant setup man on a team with a shaky closer. And I executed this plan rather well in 2014 with my David Robertson ($17)/Addison Reed ($13)/Mark Melancon ($2) trio. Robertson was lights out from start to finish. Reed came very close to being demoted a number of times during the season but managed to hang on and record 32 saves to go along with a solid 1.21 WHIP despite the mediocre 4.25 ERA. As for Melancon, let’s just say that those two bucks turned out to be two bucks well spent.

But what got me thinking about relievers in the first place? Well, being that this is my sixth year of writing the relief pitcher bios for the MLB.com Player Preview, which is set to launch on the site in early-February, the RP position has always been the position that I focus on first when starting to prepare for the upcoming season. So, inspired by the Picks and Pans format that you will see in The Fantasy Baseball Guide, let’s get started.

PICKS

Neftali Feliz – Despite diminished velocity since his pre-Tommy John surgery days, Feliz did a fine job following his return to action this past July, finishing the season with 13 saves in 14 chances to go along with a 1.99 ERA and 0.98 WHIP. Although his mediocre strikeout rate (6.0 K/9) is somewhat concerning, it is common for pitchers coming off Tommy John surgery to regain their lost velocity, and an increase in power could lead to increased whiffs. Draft Feliz at the price of a mid-range #2 closer and he could very well perform like a borderline #1.

Drew Storen – With Rafael Soriano no longer a member of the club, Storen heads into 2015 as Washington’s undisputed closer. Considering his track record in the stopper role (43 saves in 2011) and his dominant performance as the Nationals’ ninth inning man last September (10-for-10 in save chances, 10 1/3 IP, 8 H, 0 ER, 0 BB, 10 K), there’s no reason to think that Storen cannot deliver top-10 closer numbers, at the very least. Judging from some early mocks, you should be able to draft him at a fraction of that cost.

PANS

Addison Reed – I know I mentioned that Reed did a decent job for me in Tout this year, but that doesn’t mean I plan on drafting him in 2015. To be fair, he did post a stellar strikeout rate (10.5 K/9) and impressive walk rate (2.3 BB/9), so there is some bounce back potential here, especially if he can cut down on the homers. But watching some of his outings was flat-out torture, and I’d rather not go through that again.

Joe Nathan – This is kind of depressing, as Nathan has been a longtime fantasy favorite of mine. I can’t even begin to count the number of times I’ve owned him over the past decade. But his reign as an ultra-reliable closer appears to be over. Yeah, he did pitch better in the second half (16-for-18 in save chances, 3.70 ERA) after a disastrous start to the 2014 campaign, but with 15 walks over 24 1/3 post-All Star break innings, it’s not like all was well on the Nathan front. With Joakim Soria as a fallback option for the Tigers, Nathan figures to have a short leash should he struggle out of the gate in 2015. Forget #2 fantasy closer. I wouldn’t even feel comfortable with him as my #3.

Give me Addison Reed instead.

Last Updated on Sunday, 07 December 2014 08:12
 
Learning By Doing PDF Print E-mail
Diary of a Fantasy Madman
Written by Zach Steinhorn   
Sunday, 23 November 2014 00:00

This past Tuesday, as Lawr discussed in yesterday’s Bed Goes Up, Bed Goes Down, a bunch of us participated in the annual 23-round, 15-team mock draft that is featured in The Fantasy Baseball Guide, a season preview publication put together by Peter Kreutzer (Rotoman). If you’re going to purchase one magazine this winter (and I strongly suggest keeping it to a minimum to avoid a brain overload), this is the one to get, and I’m not just saying this because I’m biased. Trust me. Oh, and there’s a heavy Mastersball presence in the magazine as well. Back to the draft, let me echo Lawr in thanking Mike and Jimi of couchmanagers.com for hosting the proceedings using their comprehensive applet. There were no snafus whatsoever!

Anyway, Lawr only revealed the Round 1 results, and since I really do want everyone to buy the magazine, I’m not going to share too much more of this top secret information. So here are just a few of the picks, all made within the first ten rounds of the draft, that caught my attention.

Brian Dozier (Round 3, Pick 13) – Last season, Dozier proved that his promising 2013 campaign (18 HR, 14 SB) was no fluke, shattering those numbers en route to a career year (23 HR, 21 SB, 112 R), so maybe I should be giving this guy more credit. But I still need to see a bit more from this .241 career hitter before I can take him in the top-50. He did rank 6th in the Majors in walks, so if this were an OBP league, I guess I could justify the pick. I’d certainly feel more comfortable with Ian Kinsler as my starting 2B. He went off the board three picks later.

Hanley Ramirez (Round 3, Pick 14) – Although I don’t have any intention of drafting Hanley in 2015, largely due to his recent injury history, he was a no-brainer selection at this spot. Think about this. Ramirez was drafted in the early second round (#15 overall) in last month’s 12-team MLB.com mock. A 29 pick difference? Really?

Nolan Arenado (Round 4, Pick 12) – There went my plan! I’m a big fan of Arenado this year. The Rockies third sacker has shown steady improvement in just about every statistical category since his 2013 call-up and his power finally broke through in the second half last season (12 homers in 202 post-All Star break at-bats). The problem was I thought I could wait awhile longer to draft him. I might have even passed on him at 5.02, figuring that he would fall to 6.14. Apparently not. If I really want Arenado this year, I will need to be more aggressive. Lesson learned.

Matt Harvey (Round 6, Pick 6) – While it’s entirely possible that the 2015 version of Matt Harvey will be just as dominant as the 2013 version, it’s not a given, at least early on, as pitchers coming back from Tommy John surgery often need a little extra time to return to form. Personally, in a non-keeper league, I’ll be staying away from Harvey unless I can get him at a significant discount. There are simply too many question marks. At 6.06, he’s no bargain. Cole Hamels, a legit fantasy ace, was drafted one pick later.

Carlos Carrasco (Round 10, Pick 6) – The pitcher counterpart to Arenado in that I underestimated the demand. Carrasco finally shook off the “prospect bust” label last year and it looks like he’s in the big leagues to stay. Duplicating last season’s 2.55 ERA and 0.99 WHIP might be too much to expect, but draft him as your #3 or #4 mixed league SP and you won’t be disappointed. I was planning on grabbing Carrasco somewhere in the Round 12-13 range. So much for that. Gio Gonzalez, Doug Fister and Jeff Samardzija were all taken after Carrasco.

Lesson learned.

Last Updated on Sunday, 23 November 2014 00:38
 
Youth Not Being Served PDF Print E-mail
Diary of a Fantasy Madman
Written by Zach Steinhorn   
Sunday, 16 November 2014 00:00
At last year’s Mixed Tout Wars auction, I made a special effort to avoid filling my roster with too many players who are in their mid to late 30’s. For the most part, there’s just too much downside involved when investing in these guys, both from a performance and injury standpoint. And since my season was largely a success, I’ll continue to follow that approach for the foreseeable future. The same cannot be said for many major league teams, certainly not the three teams that decided to act early in free agency, the Mets, Tigers and Pirates. After all, the average age of the first three prominent free agent signings, as of Opening Day 2015, comes out to 36.7, which I guess isn’t too bad if we’re talking about one-year deals. But two of the three contracts were multi-year pacts, which is risky to say the least.

Of all teams, the cost-conscious Mets struck first, inking veteran outfielder Michael Cuddyer to a two-year, $21 million contract. Now listen, Cuddyer carries an extensive track record of solid production when healthy. The problem is that he’s averaged just 105 games played per season over the past four years. Similar to what the Amazins did with Bartolo Colon last winter, they’re handing out a multi-year contract to an aging player who would have found it difficult to land a multi-year contract anywhere else. Granted, Year 1 of the Colon experiment was far from a disaster, but he turns 42 next May, so all bets are off. Plus, I think the situation is a bit different when you’re dealing with an everyday player who won’t have the DH spot as a fallback option on days where he could use a breather. Oh, and then there’s that Coors Field vs. Citi Field factor. Will the moved in fences at Citi make much of a difference? I’ll believe it when I see it. I’m staying away from Cuddyer unless it’s an NL-only league and I’m desperate.

All along, the most likely scenario for Victor Martinez was a return to the Tigers, and that’s exactly what happened, though it did take a four-year offer to retain V-Mart’s services. I’m not sure where the 32 home runs came from, and counting on a 30-plus home run encore in his age-36 season is a low percentage gamble. But Victor can hit, and I don’t think he will lose that ability anytime soon. He’s now batted over .300 in five consecutive seasons, and 20 homers and around 100 RBI is a very reasonable expectation for 2015. I’ll be open to drafting Martinez, especially in an OBP league (.373 career OBP), but I won’t go out of my way to pay top dollar for him. The loss of catcher eligibility hurts, and while a first baseman who posts a .300-20-100 line is valuable in fantasy, it’s not quite elite.

Over the past few off-seasons, A.J. Burnett has hinted that he’s ready to retire. But, he keeps coming back, and after a rough season in Philadelphia, he will return to Pittsburgh in hopes of helping the Pirates in their quest to reach the NLCS for the first time since 1992. A.J. enjoyed a great deal of success in his two-year stint with the Bucs from 2012-2013, winning a combined 26 games to go along with a 3.41 ERA, 1.23 WHIP, 8.9 K/9 and 3.0 K/BB. That said, he turns 38 in January and his mediocre performance with the Phillies last season cannot be overlooked. This is one of those situations where I’d rather jump off the bandwagon a year too early than a year too late. If you can get him for around five bucks in an NL-only league, that’s fine. At least he will give you some strikeouts. But at that stage of your draft/auction, there will probably be younger, higher upside options available.

The key word, of course, is younger.

Last Updated on Saturday, 15 November 2014 23:28
 
A Not So Funny Thing Happened… PDF Print E-mail
Diary of a Fantasy Madman
Written by Zach Steinhorn   
Sunday, 09 November 2014 00:00
Thursday night was rough.

Attention to detail is without question my biggest strength as a fantasy owner. I’m constantly keeping track of all the latest news and I try not to let any nugget of information slip through the cracks. Listen, there’s enough luck involved in fantasy sports that you might as well do your best to control what you can, right? This is especially important in fantasy football, as one misstep could mean the difference between a win and a loss. Failing to replace a hitter who is out of the lineup in a daily transaction rotisserie baseball league is annoying, but there’s a good chance that the blunder will not determine whether or not you win your league. And even in the rare event that it does, you won’t know it, as six months worth of stats tend to drown out four missed at-bats. Football is a different story. There’s something about seeing a “0.00” next to one of your player’s names that makes your heart sink. And when you know that it’s all your fault, well, like I said, Thursday night was rough.

I’ve never been a fan of Thursday Night Football. When the NFL first added regular Thursday games to the schedule a few years ago, the Thursday schedule didn’t start until the second half of the season. Now it begins in the very first week. One of the main reasons why I’ve enjoyed playing fantasy football is that after an intense six months of combing through baseball box scores multiple times a day, it was nice to play in leagues where you can actually take a few days off each week from managing your squad. Not anymore. And even from a non-fantasy perspective, I think it sort of cheapens Sunday. But all of this is no excuse for what happened on Thursday, November 6, 2014.

One of my four football leagues is NAIFFL. Lord Zola is the commissioner and fellow Mastersballers Lawr and Rob are two other league mates. In three tries, I have yet to qualify for the playoffs, just missing the cut on two occasions. At 4-5, I’m still very much in playoff contention. NAIFFL is a PPR league, and this is the key reason why I opted to grab Andrew Hawkins late in the draft back in August. With Josh Gordon serving his suspension,

Hawkins was expected to fill the role of top wide receiver for the Browns. Hawkins got off to a fast start, racking up a combined 21 catches for 244 yards over his first three games, but he hasn’t been quite as consistent since. Still, in such a bye-heavy week, he was clearly a better option than any of the waiver wire wideouts, and I actually felt pretty good about starting him. The only snafu was that he was officially listed as questionable due to a thigh/knee injury. But all indications, as late as 1 PM ET, were that he would suit up. At around 7:00 PM ET, I began to watch a movie, and my mind temporarily drifted away from the world of fantasy football.

By the time the movie was over, it was roughly 8:35. What? Hawkins inactive? Frantically heading over to the league site, I clicked on my lineup, but it was too late. So I’ll be trying to win this week despite that dreaded “0.00” next to Hawkins’ name. This is so unlike me. Hopefully, it won’t mean the difference between a win and a loss.

Thursday night was rough.

How rough?

That remains to be seen.

Last Updated on Sunday, 09 November 2014 00:30
 
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